YALDING and NETTLESTEAD PROTECTION SOCIETY.
The YNPS as it was known as was formed in 1974 because many local people were concerned about their immediate environment. Protection and improvement of the two parishes was their main objective. The first meeting was held on March 6th 1974 at Lees Lodge, Yalding, with the first president being General Sir Alan Cunningham.
Smaller groups were formed within the society to cover various aspects of country life. At first these were called - Highways; Trees and Hedges; Rivers; and Footpaths; with Planning and Local History being added soon after. The two groups, Rivers, and Trees & Hedges were later renamed Natural History and encompassed looking after local trees, ponds, rivers and wild flowers.
In the first year (1974 - 75) funds were obtained by collecting 41 tons of waste paper and selling it for £640. By the first AGM in 1975, the enthusiastic members had held 20 walks (about 30 people on each), cleared 8 footpaths, put a new bridge on footpath 175 and sold 500 Footpath maps (at only 5p each!). A wild flower survey was also started.
In October 1974 an Exhibition was opened by General Cunningham to publicise the society's aims and to raise money. It was a great success and a second one was held in 1976. A third exhibition took place in 1982 opened by Radio Medway's David Cornet, at which over £ 600 profit was used for village projects. The arts and crafts, at these exhibitions, included demonstrations of pottery, enamelling, copper engraving, rush and cane work, fabric painting, silk screen-printing, flower arranging, paintings, and wrought ironwork made by our local blacksmith.
The Society's Planning Group was operating from the first year, keeping an eye on planning applications made to Maidstone Borough Council in order to save the village from unwanted development (such as Gravel Extraction near Laddingford). The problem of heavy lorries going through the village and over our bridges was noted in 1982 and many times thereafter, but it took years before anything was done by the authorities to realise the threat to our historic monuments.
The Footpath Group protected our local cross-country walks, for in 1975 eight walks were undertaken under the leadership of Dr A Fincham, covering all 46 paths in the parish. Local Walk Cards were eventually put in packs, each covering a certain area and were sold in the Post Office and local shops. They are still in production today, enabling many walkers to enjoy the countryside. Also in 1982 a `Litter Group' was started up with the aim of keeping the village free from rubbish.
“Natural History” included many things - tree planting and protection, wild flower protection, monitoring the appearance of our villages and churchyards, and educational talks to enlighten the members. Many trees were planted on the Lees, (though many were later vandalised), and ponds were cleared of vegetation and rubbish.
Over these years, a sizeable band of village residents supported the YNPS; in the 1982-3 year there were 96 registered members. They did not all appear at the meetings but helped the society in a number of ways, which was not always serious work. In the summer, Cream Teas were organised in member's gardens, serving scones, jam and cream with a pot of tea to anyone who came along. For a number of years, members also had the pleasure of attending a New Year Party that took place in various homes, where they ate delicious food complemented by hot, strong, mulled wine.
Sadly, the Society was brought to a close on March 8th 1989 when the hard-working Secretary, Ann Kyne, moved away from Kent, and no one could be found to follow Geoffrey Fyson as Chairman. The people who worked for the good of the village whilst belonging to the YNPS are too numerous to be mentioned by name, but they know who they are and they must feel very satisfied that Yalding is still such a pleasant place in which to live.